Dr. John C. Maxwell has been a public speaker and motivational teacher for more than 50 years. In his new book, The 16 Undeniable Laws of Communication, he shares everything he’s learned from a lifetime of communication. This blog post comes from the book’s second chapter, “The Law of Observation.”
In his 2015 letter to shareholders of Berkshire Hathaway, Warren Buffett wrote, “Much of what you become in life depends on whom you choose to admire and copy.”
Buffett attributes a lot of what he learned about managing companies to Tom Murphy, who was his mentor. Murphy built Capital Cities Communications into a telecommunications empire. In 1995, Murphy sold his company to Disney for approximately $19 billion. It took someone who knew how to become a billionaire to teach Buffett how to become a billionaire.
Good Communicators Learn from Great Communicators
Warren Buffett’s statement is also true about communicating. Who you will become as a communicator depends on who you choose to admire and copy. As I look back now, I can see that my communication journey proceeded in four stages based on the people who I learned from and how I applied the lesson.
1. I WORKED TO LEARN THE BASICS OF GOOD SPEAKING WHERE I WAS.
My starting place was to look at others within my professional group – in my case, within my denomination of Christianity – and I learned by observing the best speakers. I watched them, learned from them, and imitated what I thought would work for me. I spoke as often as I could to get practice. I tried different techniques, failed often, made adjustments, and improved.
2. I LEARNED MORE FROM GREAT COMMUNICATORS OUTSIDE MY OWN WORLD.
As I became better, I widened my view. I looked at other communicators, professionals such as Zig Ziglar, to learn from them. I also began to observe great communicators from every field and profession.
3. AS MY AUDIENCES CHANGED, I CHANGED TO KEEP CONNECTING WITH THEM.
The more experience I gained as a communicator, the more tuned in I became to my audience. As I expanded my speaking career, I had to keep learning new ways to connect with people.
4. I STARTED TEACHING CORE PRINCIPLES THAT EVERYONE COULD APPLY.
In the seventies, I began teaching leadership. My audience was primarily church leaders. During the eighties and nineties, more and more businesspeople attended my conferences to learn leadership, and I realized I could help more people if I shifted my speaking from church-specific leadership practices to universal leadership principles. This was when The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership was born. This shift meant I had to reinvent myself again as a speaker, but it was well worth the effort to increase my influence and impact.
Today I continue to study communication so I can learn and grow. I will do that until the day I die. Why? First, because I love communication and want to know everything I can about it. Second, I know there are communicators out there who are better than I am and from whom I can learn. Third, audiences continue to change. If I’m not continuing to grow, one day I’ll wake up and find myself irrelevant. I don’t want that to happen.
Are you looking for a way to improve your communication skills?
John Maxwell is one of only eight people on the planet who have been awarded Toastmasters’ Golden Gavel and been inducted into the National Speakers Association Hall of Fame. In The 16 Undeniable Laws of Communication: Apply Them and Make the Most of Your Message, Dr. Maxwell has condensed 50 years of communication experience and expertise into 16 simple principles that will help you move your message farther, faster. If you want to become a more effective communicator, you can click here to get your copy today.